Auburn wins third SEC title
Third time's the charm. After failing to clinch an SEC regular season title in road games against Florida and Arkansas, Auburn returned home on the regular season's final day still looking to shore up their first regular season title in two decades. Despite a slow start, Auburn's shooters regained their form and powered the Tigers to a 79-70 victory.
In the early minutes of the game, Auburn appeared to be in trouble. Head coach Bruce Pearl drew a technical foul in the first two minutes of the game and the ball was not dropping for the Tigers. The shooting woes that plagued this team against Florida and Arkansas had travelled back home with the team as Auburn missed their first eight 3-pointers and shot just 2-15 from the floor. The only thing that prevented the game from becoming a total blowout was the stifling defense Auburn was playing against South Carolina. But in the season's final regular season game with an SEC title on the line, someone had to step up. Who better than the best shooter Auburn's had all year?
At one point in time this season, Bryce Brown was the favorite to win SEC Player of the Year. But an injury suffered against Texas A&M followed by a prolonged cold streak, ruled the postseason award out. In Brown's last four games, the 3-point sharp shooter hit just seven of his 39 attempts from behind the arc. Against South Carolina, it looked as though it would be more of the same. The junior guard missed his first four shots from the field, three of them 3-pointers. But with just under five minutes left in the first half, Brown knocked down his first three. In the final minutes of the first half, he'd add three more. Once the game was over and the confetti had fallen, Brown had made eight of his last nine shots from behind the three point line, and scored a game best 29 points. After the game, Bruce Pearl discussed just how important his reemergence was.
"Bryce Brown got back to doing what he does," Pearl said. "And that's if he can see it he can make it. He was the difference for us offensively."
But Bryce Brown wasn't the only Auburn player to bust out of a slump on Saturday night. The Tigers' point guard Jared Harper had also found himself struggling as of late, but he too found his form against the Gamecocks. Harper scored 18 points against South Carolina, and did a fantastic job of reading the Gamecock defense and finding the open man. In total, Harper logged eight assists Saturday night. The return of Auburn's backcourt was crucial in the nine point victory.
With their first regular season conference title in 20 years secured, Auburn now turns to the SEC Tournament. By virtue of the number one seed, the Tigers will sit the first two rounds out.Pearl's team with take some much needed rest before they face the lowest remaining seed Friday at noon.